Monday, December 30, 2013

Schneider Weisse Mein Nelson Sauvin (2011)

type: wheat bock
origin: Kelheim, Germany
price: $15/750ml (in 2011)
ABV: 7.3%
NSP: 3.7
website

My cellar has taken quite a beating over these holidays, and this was one of only a few bottles of non-stout beer that faired quite well over its resting period.  I was originally hesitated to stow this away, but even the bottle reassured me it would last.  So here we are, two years later...

This is a rather subtle, yet fully complex, wheat beer that is nicely refreshing.  Some fruit and spice notes from the yeast, and a nice mild body from the wheat.  There was a tinge of sourness that may have developed over time, but I can't be sure.  Somewhat surprisingly, given the name, hops are really not at the fore of this, but I'm OK with that.

I think it's worth cellaring this, but probably no longer than about a year or so.  At that NSP I'd like to try it fresh, and in Germany.  Actually, it appears that Kelheim is only about 100km from Plzen... hmmmm, trip anyone?

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Iron Fist Uprising (redux)

type: Belgian Tripel IPA
origin: San Diego, CA
price: $10/750ml
ABV: 12%
NSP: 9
website

Chris already gave us his take on this, but after drinking the latest crop of Uprising, I'm wondering if the recipe has changed.

Firstly, just compare the colors and note how Chris originally thought it resembled a quad.  I don't get the same impression and the beer clearly has a nice golden/light-amber appearance.

Secondly, I don't think it's overly boozy.  It does pack quite an ABV wallop, but I find it to be nicely tempered by the classic Belgian style flavors and, yada yada yada, I'm drunk.  POW.  It goes down a little too smoothly, actually.

The aromas are not hop-forward, so the fact that it's somewhat bitter and reminiscent of an IPA is a surprise, initially.  Although this is a fantastic beer, it could be absolutely world class if they dry hopped it a la Pale 31 (or some equivalent wonderfulness): I want a hop-forward aroma!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Ballast Point Piper Down

type: Scottish-style ale
origin: San Diego, CA
price: $5/22oz
ABV: 5.8%
NSP: 7.5
website

Make no mistake, this is a complex, flavorful ale which has remnants of an American strong ale (without the strong) and an almost quad-like tinge.  Lots of squaw bread and raisin, tempered with a nice stable level of brown-sugar and maltiness.  This is not insanely hoppy like it's older brother, Tongue Buckler, but just bitter enough to keep your senses tuned to the beer's inherent complexity.

As a professional crappy-beer brewer, this is indeed not crappy and quite interesting; but, what seems more interesting is the process of making it.  The bottle reads (in little detail) that this goes through a three hour boil, which seems like a pretty long boil-time by most brewing standards.  Oddly, though, the ABV doesn't indicate that the long boil time produced some sugary reduction that you could pour over pancakes (nor does the appearance).

I would say definitely pick this up and see what you think, although I can't immediately think of a good time to drink the style.  Oh... wait... while eating barbecue.  Or, haggis?

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Green Flash Grand Cru (2010)

type: Belgian dark strong ale
origin: San Diego, CA
price: $7.50/22 (in 2010)
ABV: 9.1%
NSP: 7.7
website

Pulled this baby out of the cellar over the Thanksgiving holiday, about three years since purchasing it.  The yeast had definitely been active because this thing made a sharp hiss and snap when I opened it; I guess that means it was well-sealed too.  Nice.  I should've bought a recent bottle of GF's Grand Cru to compare with, but this still has impressive, complex flavors that are mostly dominated by a charred oak-barrel aspect.  Was that intentional?   I can't be sure, but it was definitely at the fore, and perhaps a bit too strong.  It reminded me somewhat of the flavors you find in a good aƱejo; fortunately, it wasn't from a tequila man blowing a whistle.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Saint Archer IPA

type: IPA
origin: San Diego, CA
price: $3.99/22oz
ABV: 6.8%
NSP: 11.1
website

Great, another SD brewery that I have to try and figure out...  but this is a great beer to start with, and an incredible value.  There's nothing shocking about this, but it surely has deep hop character YOLO'n all over a relatively easy drinking, clean, and delicious ale; all that means it'll leave quite an impression on you, as it did for me.  In fact, it reminds me of Blind Pig, and that's a huge compliment given how good BP actually is (even though I apparently dislike it when tasting it blind).  There's no need to say much else, but to summarize: delicious IPA at a great value.  No brainer right here.

From now on I'll be adding a new feature to my reviews here: if the beer is enjoyable and has a reasonably high NSP (like St. Archer's IPA), you'll see this:

But if it has an excessively low NSP or tastes like dogballs, then you'll see a picture with the hand turned upside down.  This way you'll instantly know whether it rubs the lotion on its skin, or it gets the hose. Cheers!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Alesmith Decadence (2013)

type: doppelbock lager
origin: San Diego, CA
price: $13.50/750ml
ABV: 10.0%
NSP: 5.6
website

Last year Alesmith's Decadence was a ridiculous quad.  I enjoyed the squid outta that beer, but it left me worried how they would top it for this year.  A doppelbock lager??  Chris and I were incredulous: it wasn't even an ale!

We were dead wrong.  It's hard to say whether this "tops" the 2012 batch, but this is surely a fine member of the Decadence clan.  The last great doppelbock I had before this was Mammoth's Hair of the Bear, and this is definitely a step up.  It's remarkably smooth for how boozy it is, and you get to fully embrace the bready/raisin-ish flavors from the grain.  Those flavors dominate your senses from aroma, all the way through the finish, and even though it's impressively smooth, it's also hefty enough that it can pair very nicely with holiday meals.

I really need to start buying more of this each year, and add the remaining bottles to the cellar... and I suggest you do the same.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

BD in a Flying Dog: Woody Creek

type: Belgian-style white ale
origin: Frederick, MD
price: $11/6-pack
ABV: 4.8%
NSP: 9.3
website

Annnd we're back... with another installment of the Flying Dog Ballz Deep series:  I'm happy to say this lives up to my inflated expectations of FD.

It seems to me this sits somewhere in between Avery's White Rascal (we haven't reviewed it, but definitely check out the comments on Chris' Avery post), and Deschutes' Chainbreaker, but with a more subtle set of flavors (not any less complex though).  Wildeman was a resounding success, and with this beer I'm now a firm believer that the FD brewers know exactly how Belgian yeast and additives should be used to create classic spicy-orange-peel flavors.  This is more or less a really easy drinking light-wheat ale with wonderful Belgian-like flavors and and an appropriate level of hops.  It reminds me somewhat of Hoegaarden, which I'd slug back any day.  Another notch in the belt for FD, I suppose.

I think that's Steadman's representation of the Coachella main stage.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Knee Deep Midnight Hoppyness

type: imperial black, rye, IPA (an IBRIPA??)
origin: Lincoln, CA
price: $8.35/22oz
ABV: 9.5%
NSP: 7.4
website

The funny thing about this review is that, in retrospect, I had no idea what type of beer this was when I bought it.  I thought it was some variant on their 'hoppy-as-fuck' IPA schtick, so when I poured it I was legitimately shocked (cuss words were exclaimed).  And so here we are: the first official "imperial black rye IPA" I've ever had, and it's rather delicious.

My standard for Black IPA (or "Cascadia Dark Ale", if you please) has always been Hop in the Dark or Sublimely Self-Righteous.  The flavors are very similar, but of those only SSR comes close to this in the ABV range (8.7%, although that's also brutally imperial).  The head is nice, and aligned with my expectations for the style: somewhere between tan and brown, like a nice espresso crema.  Oddly, given Knee Deep's hop-utation, there aren't really any aromas coming from that lovely head, which forced a double take from me.  Fortunately, though, the lack of solid aromas is essentially negligible because the beer itself is incredibly tasty, deceptively hoppy, and very smooth and easy to drink.  It finishes a bit light which is a little unexpected, but I'm thoroughly enjoying this.

With Batch 138 I was becoming worried that KD was a one-trick pony (i.e., the schtick I mentioned earlier), but this says otherwise.  I'm impressed because not many breweries even attempt the single black IPA (let alone an imperial!), yet this is exceptional.  So I cheers a bravo to KD: you folks are a pony with more than one trick.  Let's just hope you decide to brew this again.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Bells Expedition Stout

type: Russian imperial stout
origin: Comstock, MI
price: $3/12oz
ABV: 10.5%
NSP: 12.4
website

This damn bottle has been staring at me in the face since Brats and I returned from North Carolina in May.  The batch I'm drinking was bottled in October of 2012 (it's now November of 2013) and I am absolutely impressed.  As with any IRS as absolutely massive as this, it's hard to look past the 'elephant in the room', which happens to also be stepping fully on your brain: the alcohol.  It's boozy, and so are the aromas wafting up, which can be off-putting.  But, jf you push through and give that elephant a peanut it will ease off, revealing wondrous flavors like rich molasses and deep dark chocolate malts.  The key to this beer is that it still reminds me of beer.  That claim may sound strange, but just give Bourbon County a try, for example, and you'll understand my meaning immediately.

This is very highly rated by the trolls, and I don't disagree.  But this is a dessert beer, to be sure, and I'm a dessert fiend.  I can see how probably only a small fraction of beer drinkers will appreciate this: it's the kind of beer that needs a significant amount of time to chill out.  The kind you forget about in your cellar (even if that means it's sitting in the back of your closet), and it ends up surprising the hell out of you years later.

In retrospect, I would've happily paid nearly double what I did, so I suggest you try and find this when it becomes available (and buy two, so you can do some vertical tasting!).  I would also like to reproduce some prose from Bells' website, because I think it does this beer justice:
One of the earliest examples of the Russian Imperial Stout in the United States, Expedition Stout offers immensely complex flavors crafted specifically with vintage aging in mind, as its profile will continue to mature and develop over the years. A huge malt body is matched to a heady blend of chocolate, dark fruits, and other aromas. Intensely bitter in its early months, the flavors will slowly meld and grow in depth as the beer ages. Shelf Life: Unlimited | Dates Available: Winter | Available Packages: Bottle and draft
This, my friends, is why drinking craft beer gives me a warm, tingly feeling inside.  Or it's the 10.5%.  Either way, I'm cool.